Campus & Community

Spring arrives with annual Daffodil Days

3 min read

Daffodils Everything’s coming up daffodils at Harvard during the month of February.

One of the University’s signature fundraisers, Daffodil Days, has sprung to life again, with nearly 100 site coordinators soliciting faculty, staff, and students to purchase the colorful $6 bouquets to benefit the American Cancer Society. Sales will continue until Friday, Feb. 23, with deliveries scheduled for Monday, March 26, just in time for spring.

“The entire Harvard community is involved in this,” says Carole Lee, department administrator at the Office of Community Affairs and lead coordinator for Harvard’s 13th annual Daffodil Days drive. “But I give special thanks to all of my site coordinators. If these 96 people weren’t out there selling we wouldn’t have this event. And the Harvard community is responding.”

The response has been tremendous. During the past 13 years, Harvard has donated more than $255,000 to the American Cancer Society. Last year, total sales topped $33,000, making Harvard the top single-site seller in New England.

“I feel like the sale almost fires itself up,” says Maureen Leary Griffin, administrative director of the Criminal Justice Institute and coordinator for Daffodil Days sales at the Law School, which rung up more than $3,000 in sales last year. “People have come to expect it here and they know about it … so I think there’s a certain sense that this thing has a life of its own now.”

The event is so popular, in fact, that Ursula Moore, manager of University Mail Services, is coordinating 96 separate deliveries this year to 14 different locations. Those employees who want to contribute to the charity but are unable to accept the daffodils can donate their bouquets to the oncology ward at Mt. Auburn Hospital.

“I don’t think it’s a hard sell at all,” says Peter Conlin, user analyst in the University Development Office and historically one of the top sellers. “Most people, at one time or another, have been touched by cancer, either through friends or family. So it’s a two-part thing. They’re getting some daffodils and they’re also getting the good feeling of knowing they’re giving to a good cause.

“And it’s a pride thing for our office too,” Conlin continues. “There are two drives that are really sanctioned by the University – one is for the United Way and the other is Daffodil Days. They are the two things that the University is really promoting and we make sure we do a good job with both of them.”

Daffodils began appearing annually in Harvard offices and laboratories in 1988 when Lee’s predecessor Rita Corkery, who survived a bout with breast cancer herself, agreed to become the fundraiser’s “point person” at the University. “It all started with a little publicity and word of mouth,” she says.

Harvard sales started modestly, with $2,500 in 1988. The numbers doubled in the second and third years, and topped $20,000 in 1993.

“This event is so popular because cancer touches so many people,” Lee says, echoing Conlin, “I don’t think there’s anyone who, in some form or another, has not been touched by cancer – either in their families, close friends, or somewhere else in their lives. And I think this is the one event where you give money and you get something back. That’s very unusual.”

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